The Black Christmas bushfires were bushfires that burnt for almost three weeks from 25 December 2001 across New South Wales, Australia. It was the longest continuous bushfire emergency in NSW history.
Low rainfall across winter & spring 2001 combined with a hot, dry December created ideal conditions for bushfires. On the day of Christmas Eve, firefighters from the Grose Vale Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigade attended a blaze in rugged terrain at the end of Cabbage Tree Rd, Grose Vale, believed to have been caused by a poorly-extinguished campfire in the Grose Valley.
On Christmas Day, strong westerly winds fuelled more than 100 bushfires across the state, creating a plume of smoke that extended across Sydney . This plume of smoke would not clear for some days as the bushfires continued to burn, creating some of the worst pollution that Sydney has ever experienced, with a regional pollution index reading of 200 in the North West Sydney & 120 in the Central East & South West Sydney .
The fires mainly burnt in Lane Cove National Park, the Royal National Park & Blue Mountains National Park. Overall approximately 3,000 square kilometres (740,000 acres) were burnt.180 homes were destroyed. Arsonists were believed to be responsible for starting many of the fires, leading to harsher penalties for those who start bushfires.
The dry conditions that started the bushfires continued well into 2002, resulting in the worst drought in 100 years. As of 2006 the drought is ongoing, with the drought being declared a "one in 1000 year event" .
An Erickson S-64 Aircrane helicopter became something of a celebrity during this time. Elvis (N179AC) was brought out from the USA for the first time & proved instantly successful, resulting in the helicopter being brought to Australia for every bushfire season ever since. In addition, two other helicopters were brought out, these being "Georgia Peach" (N154AC) & "Incredible Hulk" (N164AC).